A Brooklyn stickup artist, his taxi-dancing Filipina spouse, a murderous newspaperman, a
risk-taking warden, and a wife with a dark past converge in 1930s Sing Sing, destined for
love, death, forgiveness, redemption—and Ebbets Field.
. . . a page-turning tale of violence and desperation, magisterially narrated in a gripping,
often wry, fashion. Recorded in tears and punctuated in—rarely innocent—blood.
. . . an intricate and compelling web of perfectly-balanced back stories: a young priest
gone wrong and then right again, a brutal Bowery killer obsessed with escape, a stylish
con man with the vestige of a conscience, a thuggish Garment District goon with a
devout sister, a tell-all Broadway gossip columnist
with the power to make or break you, a rat of an accomplice, and a once-disgraced
private detective who now surprisingly elevates principle above paycheck. Inspired by
the true-life stories of ball-playing convict Edwin "Alabama" Pitts, Sing Sing's famed
reforming warden Lewis E. Lawes, his saintly wife Kathryn, New York City newspaper
editor (and murderer) Charles "The Rose Man of Sing Sing" Chapin, and the prison's
longtime Catholic chaplain William Cashin—though, of course, we have taken more than
a few liberties.
That, after all, is what makes it a novel.
Along the way we also meet a few folks whose names have not been changed to protect
the innocent (or guilty), including gruff Major League Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw
Mountain Landis and legendary gossip columnist Walter Winchell.
"BANG!!! A shot sundered whatever peace resided on Amsterdam Avenue—then—
BANG!!!—another. Foxy Renard felt his left arm sting. He knew he’d been hit but
didn’t know whether the bullet had grazed him or hit bone, how much he was
bleeding or even whether or not he bled at all. He didn’t have much experience
being a clay pigeon. Maybe, he thought, it was just a flesh wound, like in the movies
or the radio or the detective magazines or the dime novels. Nothing to really worry
about, except there never is such thing as just a flesh wound when it’s your flesh."
"Mrs. Larrabee across the hall took Nick [Strecker] in—providing him with a roof over
his head but not much more. It might be said that Mr. Larrabee was a mean drunk,
but it was exceedingly difficult to ascertain if he was any meaner drunk than sober
for he never seemed sober at all. For safety and sanity, young Nick wandered the
streets. He hired out for errands of dubious legality. He rolled drunks in stinking, rat-
filled alleyways—there was, after all, no shortage of inebriates on Ludlow Street. He
pinched what he could from pushcart vendors and shopkeepers and ran like hell. He
was an Artful Dodger without a Fagin, on the road to becoming a Bill Sikes without a
"A dime a dance, and all the drunks and losers and punks Carrie could handle. “No
Improper Dancing Permitted,” a sign upon the Strand’s fly-specked wall piously
warned. What a joke. The job was all wandering hands and uninviting and uninvited
propositions. All maneuvering into darkened corners and the grinding of their flesh
onto your flesh. All the hectoring by the floor bosses to hustle up more business. On
your feet until two or three in the morning. Stuffing half of each ticket into your top
of your stocking because you couldn’t trust management not to cheat you."